Mental Representation

Hartry Field

in Truth and the Absence of Fact

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780199242894
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597381 | DOI:
 Mental Representation

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Argues for postulating an inner ‘language’ in which thinking takes place, and proposes a means by which this postulate can be construed on functionalist lines. The functional theory is a purely causal one, and makes sense of only the syntactic and conceptual role properties of the inner language; and it is argued that, while the representational semantics of the ‘inner language’ might conceivably be construed functionally as well, this would require a broader theory whose nature is not obvious, and the functionalist construal would not remove the need of theories of reference‐like relations to show how the functional theory is physically realized. It is argued that much of the explanatory work of mental representations is done by the syntactic/conceptual role theory (which includes causal input and output laws), though suggestions are made about a possible explanatory role for the representational semantics. There is also a discussion of the distinction between intrapersonal and interpersonal synonymy, with a characterization of the former in terms of conceptual role, and sceptical remarks about the clarity of the latter. Includes a long new postscript focusing largely on questions about the explanatory role of representational semantics.

Keywords: belief; conceptual role; functionalism; indeterminacy of translation; interpersonal synonymy; language of thought; narrow psychology; physicalism; psychological explanation; representation; semantics; truth‐conditions

Chapter.  29922 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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